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June 15, 2016

The Mobile Wallet Is More Critical to the Future of Retail Than Apps

 

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In recent years and months, mobile payment systems such as Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay, have been ramping up, giving merchants ample choices. The consumer demand for mobile wallets is on the rise, and for good reason.

For merchants of all types, from small mom-and-pop stores to Fortune 500 companies, mobile wallets can boost revenue and reduce operating costs substantially. 

Here are five reasons why the mobile wallet is more crucial to the future of retail than apps.

Ability to Reduce Costs

Retailers and food service operators can enjoy the benefit of reduced costs by using mobile wallets. This is because they can drastically lower fraud loss and/or payment processing fees, the latter of which merchants often cite as one of the largest expenses after labor.

With apps, there is still a huge risk to hackers getting into the system and obtaining critical customer info, such as their addresses, bank accounts, and credit card numbers.

More Sales and Increased Revenues

Mobile wallets have the ability to move more consumers through the line quicker, driving up revenues for merchants. If a business has the ability to leverage a mobile wallet to engage and connect with costumers, it can sell more products and services during slower periods by enabling customers to check out anywhere at anytime, or enticing them with exclusive discounts and coupons.

While apps allow retailers to connect with consumers and offer them promos, buyers do not have the ability to purchase items as easily as they would if they were using a mobile wallet.

Catering to the Anywhere, Anytime Customer

More people are performing their daily errands online, creating significant opportunities for retailers to be invited into a consumer’s mobile world. If a retailer creates a rich interactive experience for the mobile-enabled consumer, it allows customers to purchase items both in store and via internet-based mobile purchasing opportunities.

Simplification

With mobile wallets, users enter their information once and then receive PIN numbers through text messages, which are used to complete the purchase. Shoppers only need to enter their PINs to complete the transaction, saving them the time and hassle of re-entering all of their information again for future transactions, as some apps require.

Rich Marketing Platforms

A report recently released by Forrester Research suggested that mobile wallets are set to become an essential marketing platform within the next five years. Mobile loyalty is important for connecting with consumers, and brands should mobilize their loyalty programs and branded content to offer promos to consumers in real time.

Mobile wallets are imperative for brands hoping to use mobile technology to reach consumers. If your retail business wants to enjoy the many benefits of mobile wallets and text messages, contact EZ Texting today. We look forward to hearing from you.

June 14, 2016

How Mobile Technology Is Boosting Productivity

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We live in a fast-paced, mobile-centric world. This is why many big-name brands are turning their attention to mobile technology to reach consumers. But as customer preferences and behavior spill over into the business workforce, businesses are now utilizing the benefits of these technologies to their advantages. One study in the UK shows that providing mobile apps to workers can boost productivity by 34 percent. The drive in mobility is a key player in the business tech agenda, as more companies are recognizing its value.

Here are a few ways mobile technology is boosting productivity. 

Communication is Key

Like every good business professional knows, communication is a critical part of the success of a company. The integration of mobile devices, such as smartphones and laptops, makes it easier for workers to collaborate and for companies to communicate and connect with staff, vendors and consumers. 

Real-time communication has huge customer service benefits. Responding to consumers in a prompt fashion, offering a greater range of products and services, making product information available to customers, and improving turnaround and service all equate to better business profits, as Air Canada found when it replaced paper processes with interactive mobile devices for ground staff.

Workers benefit, too. From interacting with colleagues while traveling to attending an office meeting from 1,000 miles away, mobile business keeps the lines of communication constantly open. 

Mobile Marketing

Customers now have 24/7 access to their favorite brands via mobile technology. Companies are realizing the value of advertising to on-the-go consumers and now offer advertising and marketing through SMS (text) messaging, banner ads, mobile apps, mobile websites, QR codes, and more. 

Not only can these campaigns be customized to reach a more targeted audience due to software that “reads” the websites and sees what people are seeking on their mobile devices, but it is also helping businesses reach customers from anywhere at any time.

Cloud Commuting

This technology lets companies store data or applications on a remote server that can be accessed by authorized personnel. Employees can then create, view, and share this information to facilitate a variety of tasks, such as banking, virtual meetings, and file sharing. If a company has telecommuting workers, such as employees on maternity leave or vacation, these individuals can have quick and easy access to info that allows them to work from anywhere.

Cost Reductions

The infrastructure to support a mobile workforce is more affordable than equipping a physical office with desktops, servers, printers, and faxes. Allowing workers to have access to training materials, company info, and more can save them (and your business) money on travel, instructors, accommodations, rented office space, and more.

Mobile technology is proven to boost business productivity through connection, cost reduction, and creative mobile marketing. If you want to take advantage of mobile marketing and technology, contact our company today to learn more. 

June 08, 2016

How mHealth Tech Is Helping Stroke Recovery

 

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Each year, nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke—an attack on the brain caused by a loss of blood flow, which can result in disabilities such as memory loss, speech impairment, and limited mobility.  

During a stroke, brain cells lose the blood flow they need to stay alive. When brain cells die, it can cause permanent disability, depending on how serious the stoke was and in what area of the brain blood loss occurred. 

More than two-thirds of stroke survivors will experience some type of disability. For patients recovering from a stroke, therapy is one way to improve the cognitive functions that are often disabled after a serious attack. 

 

Mobile Tech Improves Stroke Recovery 

In a recent study conducted by Constant Therapy, researchers found that stroke survivors who engaged in at-home therapy featuring customized brain rehabilitation software, like an app, increased their cognitive, speech accuracy, and processing speed during recovery. 

Each stroke is different, and each survivor will need different therapy to reconstruct or reconfigure the areas of the brain that suffered damage during the stroke. Constant Therapy has designed an app that allows doctors and caregivers to customize the treatment plan to focus on the different brain areas that control specific brain functions. 

The company analyzed 20 million therapy exercises, as well as 100 million data points. Combining this big data with a mobile platform will continue to improve the customization capabilities of the mHealth program. 

“The more data we collect, the better our algorithms become,” said Keith Cooper, CEO of Constant Therapy.

Plus, having the therapy available in an app, and for various mobile devices, allows patients to maintain therapy programs at home, not just while they’re in the hospital. 

Stoke survivors that incorporated at-home therapies, like Constant Therapy’s app, received 5 times more therapy than those only receiving therapy at a clinic. 

The more survivors engage with the app, the faster and more thorough their recovery. Processing speed in language and cognitive exercise increased more than 80 percent for patients who completed more than 500 experiences on the mHealth app. 

 

mHealth to the Recue 

Commonly referred to as mHealth, mobile technology affords both providers and patients more control over their wellness plans, before and after a catastrophic event like a stroke, heart attack, or other serious medical emergency. 

In fact, it’s estimated that the mHealth solutions market will be worth nearly $60 billion by 2020. This includes an explosion of growth in a number of mobile services focused on monitoring, managing, diagnosing, and recovery therapies for patients and providers. 

The risk of stroke can be reduced by regular exercise, eating well, not smoking, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol. Unfortunately, stokes can happen to just about anyone without warning. 

The good news is that we’re getting better at helping survivors get back to normalcy. And with mHealth solutions, you can engage in these treatments from the comfort of home. 

June 07, 2016

Mobile and Microfinancing

 

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Mobile’s role in microfinancing appears to be growing, which isn’t particularly shocking. Mobile finance solutions are increasing in popularity due to the ability to perform banking actions with the mere touch or swipe of a smartphone, and many microfinance institutions have implemented m-banking platforms to reduce costs, improve customer service, and extend their reach in rural areas. 

 

M-Banking Financial Service Options

Microfinance institutions offering m-banking provide services such as loan repayment, account balance checks, and voluntary savings deposits. Countries that already feature mobile money networks find m-banking provides microfinance clients with the flexibility they want to manage deposits and payments, resulting in money saved and improved financial security. 

M-banking has also proved helpful to women in the developing world, as they frequently do not have formal bank accounts, and yet are often responsible for overseeing their families’ finances. 

 

Inexpensive and Efficient

Limited capacity and costly operational expenses are among the issues plaguing many microfinance institutions. Mobile finance solves these issues by allowing for microfinance service offerings on a cheaper, more efficient scale. Additionally, MFIs act as agents for mobile network operators and banks. This subsequently allows microfinance institutions to educate themselves on mobile finance options, minus the outrageous investment costs. 

Another benefit is the ability to take advantage of mobile phone penetration in the absence of an m-banking network. MFI clients can use their phones for non-cash purposes.

MFIs interested in using mobile banking options also do so with the intention of drastically improving operations by reducing service delivery costs and cross-selling their other products. This is designed to substantially increase efficiency. 

 

The Future of African Economics

Financial technology, or ‘FinTech,’ could potentially revolutionize economic situations in many African countries. More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa owns cellphones, but only one-third has bank accounts. Cash is still the main currency, yet more and more startup companies are putting their marks on the financial landscape. 

African FinTech companies include M-Pesa, the Kenyan money transfer system used all over Africa, as well as 22Seven, the Cape Town-based mobile app that links to user bank accounts and makes it easy to track spending, make investments, and create customized budget plans. 

Nomanini is another option. The wireless device looks like a game console and links cloud service software so informal vendors can process transactions easily from any location. Zoona is yet another African financial service that transfers money via cell phones. Other financial tools and services include Cellulant and GetBucks. 

 

The Bitcoin Element

Bitcoin is a form of mobile money featuring no tradable or inherent value and is therefore a welcome addition to Africa’s financial options. Currently BitX is more popular in Southeast Asia than Africa, but it’s entirely possible that it will catch on among African nations, especially given its African bank origins. 

What does it all mean? Mobile money is a viable option applicable the world over. As long as mobile banking and financing options are safe and secure, their popularity is highly likely to increase. 

 

June 05, 2016

How Mobile Technology Can Save Taxpayers Billions

 

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The Missouri Department of Transportation (MDOT) and other “next generation” government agencies are leveraging mobile technology to save taxpayers serious sums of money. Government agencies are notorious for wasteful spending, but various departments of transportation are taking cues from the Jefferson City, MO, location, as it’s become the model and standard for saving taxpayers millions via new technologies. 

 

Mobile Maps

Mike Miller, the assistant information systems director for MDOT, told Forbes magazine all the way back in 2012 about his department’s clever use of mobile maps. MDOT had to close two major interstate highways that year, and instead of shutting them down for “eight years” while keeping two lanes open and endangering workers, the department opted to provide residents with mobile maps and apps so they could drive around the freeways. That one decision saved MDOT more than $100 million in taxpayer funds.

 

Five-Year Plan

MDOT’s former head Peter Rahn suggested an ambitious plan to save taxpayers $500 million over five years. According to Miller, the department is ahead of schedule with plan implementation, as it began work in 2010 and has already met 70 percent of its goal. Among the efforts to make the five-year plan a success are using vans equipped with video cameras that film road roughness and allowing residents to rate them. MDOT subsequently fixes the affected road as soon as possible. 

Other actions in the five-year plan include having every MDOT building and roadside access point feature wireless capabilities for employees, so no one wastes time trying to find information. The department utilizes its social media channels to provide people with updates and news, cutting communication costs. MDOT uses SharePoint to manage its records and maintain 33,000 miles of road and thousands of bridges. SharePoint use has saved the department a great deal in oversight and project management costs. 

These are only a few examples of how MDOT is reducing costs with mobile technology. 

 

e-Construction Tools

Another tech innovation saving DOT organizations and taxpayers big money is e-Construction tools. These tools are defined as processes and technology that eliminate paper use, with examples including the digitization of construction documents for distribution to stakeholders through mobile devices. e-Construction was named as a standout tool in a recent Pavia System survey, with 53 percent of DOT respondents saying they adopted e-Construction and 71 percent of respondents noting that they use such tools “widely.”  e-Construction has helped build roads, bridges, and highways, and makes for much more timely deliveries. DOT respondents also said e-Construction tools contributed to at least 76 percent of on budget construction project completions. 

Representatives for the Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Texas Departments of Transportation all applaud e-Construction tools for their ability to save money and time while increasing productivity and resulting in fewer mistakes. 

 

Challenges

With so many benefits stemming from government agencies “going paperless,” why haven’t more departments of transportation made these helpful changes? One theory is that such agencies are responsible for long-term obligations unlike private industries, which simply move on to the next project once one is completed. A lack of tools customized for project owners’ specific needs is another possible reason. Regardless, going the “pilot” route and slowly using more and more e-Construction tools will hopefully alleviate these issues. 

May 28, 2016

Why Mobile Wallets Are Superior to Chip and PIN

 

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As banks and retailers try to avoid credit card fraud by turning to technologies like chip-enabled cards, mobile wallet solutions are still not being embraced as much as they should be.

Recently, banks launched their defense against credit card fraud by leaving the ramifications of fraudulent charges for the merchants to deal with. Merchants have thus been upgrading their equipment to accept credit cards with chips in hopes that the new and more secure technology will keep their customers’ account information secure, and customers coming back to their stores.

The problem with chip-enabled credit cards is that they’re slow to process. In the restaurant business and other industries that rely on being able to provide prompt service, seconds can add up and matter. 

 

Waiting Times for Chip-Enabled Card Processing

Imagine a grocery store clerk having to wait up to ten extra seconds for a chip-enabled credit card to process before it signals the receipt to print. Think about the frustration the clerk might endure and the delays the customers might experience. Why is this new and improved technology so slow? It has to do with the security processes. And while enhanced protection is a good thing, we think there are better solutions.

When a customer slides a chip-enabled credit card into the machine’s slot, the chip generates a one-time code that is sent to the bank over a secure network. The bank then confirms the code and sends the verification back to the machine; the customer is then able to walk off with goods or services.

 

Apple Pay and Samsung Pay as an Alternative

Instead of waiting eight seconds for a chip-enabled credit card to process, customers with iPhones, or Samsung or Android smartphones, can use mobile wallet applications at many retail locations to check out quickly. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay take about three seconds to process a transaction. Android Pay takes around seven seconds. We’ve even heard accounts of some mobile wallet processing taking only 2.4 seconds.

Granted, the length of time required to process chip-enabled credit cards is due in part to the fact that you have to insert the card, wait until the transaction is approved before signing, and then remove the card. It’s not the processing itself that takes all the time. But, with mobile wallets, all you have to do is have your app ready, tap, and scan. Of course, not all merchants take Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay. So, you’ll have to check for these logos on the merchants’ cash registers or research ahead of time to see which ones use the services.

Samsung Pay is the mobile wallet that’s accepted by most merchants, because it makes use of magnetic secure transmission. This technology produces a magnetic signal that acts like the magnetic strip on traditional credit cards, which means most credit card machines can read it. More banks support Apple Pay than Samsung Pay or Android Pay. Android Pay’s advantage is that it can operate on Android devices, Samsung phones, and even iPhones and Apple Watch. 

Staying on top of security, technology, and other aspects of life comes down to looking ahead and trying to predict where things are going, not focusing solely on where things are now. Hence, it might be best to ditch the old credit card solution for good in favor of mobile wallet technology, which can be used securely on the devices that seem to run so much of our lives.

May 14, 2016

Mobile Technology Is Helping Science Understand More About Parkinson's Disease

 

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A new iPhone app called mPower is giving scientists more insight than ever into the capacities and challenges of people living with Parkinson’s. Nonprofit Sage Bionetworks is a biomedical research organization that collected an unparalleled amount of data through its mPower app, which included a dataset comprised of the daily experiences of more than 9,500 Parkinson’s sufferers. This dataset offers more valuable information than any other study on Parkinson’s has provided, as it takes into consideration millions of data points that were collected on an almost continuous basis through the mhealth (mPower) platform.

 

Unprecedented Data

Sage Bionetworks says that its researchers, through the use of the mobile technology marvel mPower, have received an unprecedented look into the activities and day-to-day changes that Parkinson’s sufferers experience as they deal with their condition.

In the past, Parkinson’s researchers typically relied on small-group studies and data, which included participants in only about the 100-person range. With mPower, scientists are able to view and study data on a larger scale, and the scope of the research is giving more clues as to how Parkinson’s sufferers deal with challenges and treatment pertaining to speech, dexterity, memory, gait, and balance.

 

How Does mPower Collect Data?

The mPower app collects data on the abilities or disabilities of Parkinson’s sufferers in a variety of ways, all with the intent of helping the estimated seven-plus million people living with the disease improve speech, put an end to tremors, strengthen memory, and help other degenerative conditions. 

The app evaluates dexterity by asking users to do a speed-tapping exercise, which the iPhone’s touchscreen turns into data for researchers. To measure speech ability, users talk into their iPhone’s microphone and record their pronunciation of vowels (and other difficult parts of speech) for 10 seconds. They also use mPower to track their medication intake and to see if abilities improve after taking the drugs.

The mPower app gathers data, and scientists and doctors use it to research Parkinson’s on an ongoing basis. Participants using the app are able to control who sees their data, and intended data researchers include mPower-affiliated doctors and scientists, as well as specified researchers worldwide. 

The data collected has already helped researchers view symptom variations that could assist them in intervening in ways never before considered. The mPower app, along with additional text messaging health services that encourage people to stay in communication with doctors regarding their health, has the potential to offer big breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatment and the treatment of other diseases. 

 

May 11, 2016

The Hottest New Trends in Mobile Marketing

 

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The mobile revolution has taken serious root, with marketers scrambling to make their websites mobile-friendly, create new and exciting apps, and otherwise drive traffic and increase revenue through mobile means. This is the mobile age, and with that in mind let’s check out some of the hottest new trends taking over mobile marketing: 

 

“Smarter” Social Messaging Apps

There’s greater selection regarding social messaging apps than ever before, with options now including Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik, Peach, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. People chat anytime, anywhere in today’s world, and about half of mobile phone users in the United States are predicted to rely on mobile messaging by the end of the year. The evolution of social media apps is already evident in China, where 91% of Internet users favor instant messaging over search. 

Platforms allow users to send multimedia messages, make payments, or use video call. They’re even used as interfaces for bot-driven interactions. 

 

Blurring Lines Among Apps, Social Media, And E-Commerce

Integration among apps and their social media and e-commerce outlets is a hot new mobile trend this year. Many social platforms are linking e-commerce features into their social media networks, such as Instagram’s “Shop Now” feature and Pinterest’s “Buyable Pins.” People didn’t used to shop on social media platforms, but the more seamless the integration, the more likely shopping on such platforms will become the norm. 

 

Branded Keyboards

A wide variety of branded keyboards are available through a mobile device’s app store, and function as ideal branding options. They allow companies to remain where they want, i.e. in consumers’ faces, without being a source of interruption or annoyance. App use equals keyboard use, meaning this type of branded engagement is far-reaching. Recent research indicates the average mobile device user works on the keyboard over 100 times per day, with branded keyboard leader Kibo seeing millions of downloads a month. And that was just in the company’s first year of operation. 

 

Apps=Lifestyle Reflections

In 2016 apps are expected to become integral parts of consumer lives as opposed to individual features that people turn to on occasion. Examples of apps as “lifestyle reflections” include fitness apps that offer weather alerts before a run and remind the person it’s time to pick up the dry cleaning. 

Lifestyle apps also increasingly indicate values. Think of consumers saying “I’m a proud fan or supporter of [x and y], which is why I use these [branded] apps.” 

 

More From Search Engine Results

Videos are already cropping up in Google’s search results, but the media giant is going a step further by experimenting with video ads. Should consumers take to video ads appearing in their search results, apps may also make appearances in SERPs. App directories and recommendations are already there, however apps as part of search engine results is a whole other thing. Such implementation will provide stores and directories with an exciting new set of opportunities. 

These and other trends are changing the marketing landscape, and mean marketers must remain that much more aware of current and future mobile trends. 

 

May 10, 2016

Text Messaging Can Help Reduce Hospital Stays

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Paging a doctor or physician has been the primary means of communication in hospitals for many years. If you’ve been to a hospital, or watched your fair share of General Hospital or Grey’s Anatomy, you know how this goes. But there are a lot of breakdowns and loopholes in this process; understanding and closing these gaps was what one study set out to do, by integrating secure text messaging.

 

Secure Text Messaging 

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Internal General Medicine and authored by several physicians, including Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS.

The study included more than 10,000 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medial Center; both facilities participated in the yearlong study that took place between 2013 and 2014.

In addition to discussing the importance of closing these time-sensitive gaps in coordination, the study concluded that better communication resulted in reduced time at the hospital for most patients; patients whose care teams used the secure text messaging systems left the hospital .77 days earlier, according to the report. 

 

Why Now?

Until recently, email and SMS text messaging platforms were strictly prohibited by hospitals. Most platforms didn’t offer the security features needed to align with current regulatory polices. But as mHealth and mobile communications have developed, many of these issues have been resolved. 

The advancement of mobile technology, smartphones, and wireless communication preempted a lot of issues in the healthcare industry. According to Dr. Patel, it’s about time the medical field caught up with the 21st century. 

“Many forms of communications within the hospital are shifting mediums in part due to the rising adoption of smartphones and new mobile applications,” said Patel. 

 

A Communication Correlation 

Until this study, whether hospitals were using mHealth platforms like SMS or not, most physicians were unaware of any link mobile technology might have with the real time a patient spent in a hospital. Thanks to Patel and the co-authors of the study, that link has been significantly illustrated. 

“Healthcare innovation is more than just using the newest smartphone app,” explained co-author David A. Asch, MD, MBA. “It involves carefully designed implementation and thoughtful evaluation of its impact on clinical care.”

Medical teams can use these secure text-messaging programs to communicate in groups with various healthcare providers simultaneously. They can share data and patient history and gain more immediate access to information. Less waiting for the doctors means less waiting for the patient, freeing up hospital beds that are already in short supply

Using mHealth devices and technology is the most likely solution for many issues currently faced by our healthcare system. It’s likely that future studies will illuminate even more ways in which these devices affect patient care and treatment plans. 

May 04, 2016

Technologies That Changed Retail

 

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In 2016, global business to consumer e-commerce sales is expected to reach $1.92 trillion. As impressive as this figure from Statista is, that’s millions of lost in-store experiences and missed customer service conversations. In an age of convenience, it can be easy to forget about what you might be missing.

Many shoppers enjoy walking down the aisles of large retail stores, checking prices and talking to people. They also like to touch the things they plan on buying. For every gained purchase online, a material purchase is lost, which has raised the stakes considerably for brick-and-mortar retail locations. If ever these stores needed a hero, it would be now. 

Who would have guessed that mobile technology could be that hero? The use of mobile technology in retail stores could save many from going out of business and help them keep pace with online shopping trends. Here’s how mobile technology is changing the retail game in a world full of online shoppers.

 

Saving Time with Retail Mobile Technology

Often, it’s faster to ask someone a question, make a suggestion, or compare two products than it is to find credible answers online. In fact, digging around on the Internet is almost more time-consuming than driving to the store in the first place.

Now, imagine all sales associates have smartphones or tablets that can locate what you want anywhere in the store. They can give you a price check, compare prices, and tell you where else you might find what you’re looking for. This is the direction mobile technology is heading, as physical retailers scramble to catch up on the super-highway. By empowering employees to help customers, mobile saves time while providing people with truly authentic service. Plus, shoppers get to walk out of the store with their merchandise in tow—no delivery time needed. 

 

Increase Productivity Among Retail Employees

Additionally, mobile technology will help retail owners save money by increasing the overall productivity of employees. In addition to customer service, mobile technology allows sales associates to manage inventories, place orders, receive shipments, take phone calls, and more. This also eliminates a mountain of paperwork and makes organizing data much less complicated. More people can do more work in a shorter amount of time.

Creating a network of employees working on mobile devices can also cut down on long checkout lines (especially during the holidays). The mobile Point of Sale (mPoS) is all about being ready the moment a customer agrees to make an in-store purchase and having an associate there to swipe the credit card. If that same customer walks to a long checkout line, they may decide not to wait. That’s a lost opportunity that’s likely to wind up somewhere online.

Shop owners can take some of those lost sales back by using mobile to capitalize on every possible sale.

The good old days we remember, when the Internet had yet become an e-commerce mecca and flashing banner ads were so bad they were good, are gone. To keep pace with all the sophisticated technology that keeps online shoppers coming back for more, brick-and-mortar retailers have no choice but to fire back with mobile.